The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been felt across every industry and sector, and mediation is no exception. Caseloads have increased due to reduced court capacity and a rise in conflict between couples and other family members forced to spend more time together at home.
Business conflicts are also on the rise, as supply chain disruption and sudden, significant changes to working environments add to the likelihood of disputes emerging between employees, managers and co-workers.
With close contact out of the question in many cases, remote mediation has become much more important as a way to make progress between socially distant parties – and using socially distant mediators, too.
The Coronavirus pandemic hasn’t just added to the caseload; it has also added to the stress and distress experienced by many people, not least those whose relationship or family unit is in the process of breaking down at this very difficult time.
Mediation matters more than ever during this period of extreme emotional and psychological challenge. Even if the courts were running at full capacity, mediation offers a gentler alternative – a way to make progress while protecting all involved parties against harm.
It is not always the case that one party must ‘win’ and the other must ‘lose’. Mediators actively try to avoid such an outcome, instead focusing on finding compromise and mutually acceptable outcomes.
This flexibility is a hallmark of mediation at all times, so it’s no surprise that mediators have also found flexible ways to work during lockdown and looking ahead to the long term of social distancing that may be before us.
Remote mediation has been offered in the past for people unable to attend mediation sessions in person, or who prefer to attend their initial Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting by telephone.
Now mediators are routinely offering remote mediation as a way to support social distancing efforts – sessions can even be attended by individuals who are shielding, self-isolating or quarantining after international travel.
Some of the communication methods that can be used include:
Remote mediation is a fast and lean process. It can even support ‘shuttle mediation’, which is when the relationship has broken down to the point where involved parties don’t want direct contact, but only speak to each other via the mediator.
Remote mediation is itself ‘mediated’ by the phone or video link, and this can provide some useful emotional distance in otherwise heated disputes.
Attending mediation from home is easier not only for social distancing, but also for individuals with impaired mobility, or separated parents who cannot arrange third-party childcare.
Like many of the changes we have made as a society, there will be lasting benefits of remote mediation even as life starts to return to more normality in the months and years to come.
In the meantime, and for however long this most challenging period lasts, mediators will continue to work tirelessly to support our clients through stressful disputes, in pursuit of a faster and more stress-free outcome for all involved.